Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Sister and Other Church Relationships

In harmony with the principles of holy Scripture and our Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dordt), the PRC through its Committee for Contact with Other Churches maintain full sister church relationships with three foreign churches and a corresponding relationship with one other foreign denomination.

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland (140)

Website

83 Clarence Street,

Ballymena BT43 5DR, Northern Ireland

Services: 11:00 A.M. & 6:00 P.M.

RevAStewart

Pastor: Rev. Angus Stewart

7 Lislunnan Rd.

Kells, Ballymena, Co. Antrim

Northern Ireland BT42 3NR

Phone: (from U.S.A.) 011 (44) 28 25 891 851

pastor@cprc.co.uk

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Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore (114)

CERCS 30thanniv 2017 group

Website

11, Jalan Mesin #04-00

Standard Industrial Building

Singapore 368813

Worship Services: 9:30 A.M. & 2:00 P.M.

Pastor - Vacant

148 Bishan Street 11 #06-113 

Singapore  570148

pastor@cerc.org.sg

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Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia (EPC) (2)

For information on this small Presbyterian denomination in Australia with whom the PRCA have a "corresponding relationship", visit their website.

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Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines (11)

PRCP Organization Banner 4 9 2014

Berean PRC, Antipolo City - Pastors: Rev. V. Ibe; Rev. L. Trinidad (emeritus)
Provident PRC - Pastor:
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Covenant Reformed News - January 2022

 

Covenant Reformed News


January 2022 • Volume XVIII, Issue 21


The White and Red Horses

The four horsemen in Revelation 6:1-8 constitute a unit within the seven seals. Unlike the other three, the first four seals deal with horses. Each horse is a certain colour: white, red, black or pale. Each horse has a rider and each horseman has a weapon or implement. The first carries a bow, the second wields a sword and the third holds a set of balances or scales. It is somewhat different regarding the fourth horse: “his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him” (8).

Unlike the other three, in the first four seals each of the four horses with their horsemen is introduced by a “beast” or living creature with the words: “Come and see” (1, 3, 5, 7). As we listen to the hoofbeats of the white, red, black and pale horses sent out by the Lamb, we are listening to four different sets of hooves.

Why horses with their horsemen? They are used in Scripture to speak of God’s mighty and mysterious providences, as in Zechariah 1 and 6. Horses are beasts with impressive strength and courage. Thus the Lord questioned Job, “Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible” (Job 39:19-20).

Why are there horsemen on the steeds of Revelation 6:1-8? Riderless horses go where they please for their power is not harnessed. But a horse with a rider is governed and directed—an appropriate image of Jehovah’s powerful and profound providence.

Let us now consider each of the four horses in turn, beginning with the white horse (1-2). There is probably the most disagreement as to the identity of this horse and its rider. Some say it speaks of the past, either a Roman general at the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 or Constantine the Great in the fourth century. For others, the first seal pictures the final terrible Antichrist in the future. We believe that the white horse refers to the progress of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and so it speaks of the past, present and future.

“White” is symbolic of righteousness and holiness, which the gospel of grace alone brings. Revelation 6:2 is redolent of victory. The whiteness of the horse points to this, as does the “crown” or victor’s laurels given to its rider. However, this is especially emphasized by his going forth “conquering, and to conquer.” Only Christ’s gospel brings a victorious righteousness and holiness, with nothing but conquest and no defeat.

The white horse rides throughout all of the New Testament era, from Pentecost to our Lord’s glorious return (Matt. 24:14; Rom. 10:13-18). It has been, is and will be victorious in the hearts and lives of all of God’s elect, and the gospel will never be overcome (Rom. 1:16-17; I Cor. 1:17-31; II Cor. 2:14-16).

What about the “bow” in the hand of the rider on the white horse (Rev. 6:2)? Think of it as you read these words addressed to the conquering Messiah: “in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee” (Ps. 45:4-5).

The book of Acts records the riding of the white horse from Jerusalem to Judaea, Samaria, Antioch, Turkey and Greece (to use their modern names), and Rome. The first seal speaks of the spread of the gospel in the Middle East, southern Europe and North Africa in the first few centuries after Pentecost. Next the white horse turned north to the lands beyond the Alps. In the last several centuries, the white horse has galloped to all the continents, scores of countries and thousands of islands. The rider on the white horse, as Revelation 6:2 says, “went forth conquering, and to conquer.”

This has been going on now for some 2,000 years, involving preaching, catechizing and lecturing, and thus also the training of pastors. Arrows are shot from the gospel bow through Bible studies; Christian CDs, DVDs, books, pamphlets and radio broadcasts; and Reformed websites. All this, of course, is joined with the worshipping, praying, fellowshipping, giving and witnessing of all the saints. The white horse rides in instituted congregations and on mission fields, so that the elect are gathered out of the four corners of the earth as Christ’s one, holy, apostolic and catholic or universal church!

The red horse speaks of war (Rev. 6:3-4). The horseman carries a “great sword,” a weapon of war. Power was given to him “to take peace from the earth,” the result of war. The “red” colour of the horse suggests blood, the effusion of war. The slaughter is not persecution for the killing is reciprocal (of “one another”), the fatalities of war.

Just think of the various wars in the last two millennia, including the barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire, such as those of Attila the Hun; the Magyar and Viking attacks in eastern and northern Europe; the Norman conquest of Britain; the Crusades against the Saracens, the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of the Roses; World Wars I and II; the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Falklands War and the Iraq War. Of course, there have been many other wars all around the globe. There are also different types of conflict: civil wars, revolutionary wars, imperial wars, etc.

The riding forth of the red horse involves military training, weaponry and uniforms; propaganda, the draft and armies; generals, spies and POWs; heroes, cowards and traitors; logistics, medals and graveyards; diplomacy, ceasefires and treaties; rumours of wars, intermittent wars and cold wars; war on land, war on sea, war in the air and total war; nationalism and internationalism; destruction and carnage; war gods and a war economy. Like the white horse, the red horse was sent forth by, and is always under the control of, the crucified and risen Lamb of God! Rev. Stewart

 

 

 

How Could Satan Enter Heaven?

“God summoned the ‘sons of God,’ which refer to angels in this instance, before Him and Satan also came … ‘Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them’ (Job 1:6). My question is, How can sinful Satan enter into heaven when a ‘sinner’ can’t do so? I know God is sovereign and He can do what He likes, but would this not defile heaven?”

The questioner is correct that no sinner can enter or even see heaven (John 3:3, 5; Eph. 5:5; Heb. 3:18-19). Yet Job 1:6 and Revelation 12:7-12 make it clear that Satan had access to heaven to bring his accusations against Job. So he appears before God among the unfallen angels (called “sons of God” in Job 38:7) to charge Job with the most mercenary of motives in serving God. Though Job’s name comes up in the conversation between God and Satan almost as an afterthought, there can be no doubt that Satan’s presence in heaven was the beginning of his evil attack against this godly man.

How was this possible? First, heaven was Satan’s home in the beginning (Isa. 14:12; Jude 6). Second, though he was cast down by sin, there is no evidence in Scripture that he was banned from heaven until the time of Christ’s ascension (Rev. 12:5-12).

That Satan had access to heaven in the Old Testament is unquestionable. Revelation 12:5-12 helps us to answer the question how Satan’s access to heaven was possible, as we shall see shortly. There Satan is called “the accuser of our brethren … which accused them before our God day and night” (10) and he most certainly appears in that role in the book of Job, as he did also with Joshua the high priest in Zechariah 3:1-2.

Satan lived up to his name in the story of Job, for Satan means “slanderer” or “accuser.” He is that especially in his charge that Job served God only for what he got out of it, that is, only because God had made him wealthy. That charge must be slander because the true service of God cannot possibly be motivated by self-interest. It is always and only the fruit of God’s amazing grace.

Revelation 12:7-9 tell how all this accusing in the presence of God came to an end. Upon the exaltation of our Saviour, there was war in heaven between Michael and his angels, and Satan and his. What a war between angels and demons is like we can only imagine, but it must be, in light of Jude 9, a war of words. In that war, Michael and his host prevailed, through the power of the ascended Christ, and Satan was cast out. No doubt it is the finished work of Jesus that is Satan’s downfall for there is no longer any room for such accusations as Satan brought against Job. “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:33-34). Satan’s access to heaven, therefore, was possible because Christ had not yet come and provided a sacrifice for sin that would put an end to Satan’s work in heaven as the accuser of the brethren.

Satan did exactly what Romans 8:33-34 says is no longer possible. He brought charges against one of God’s elect, and that can only be because Christ had not yet come in the flesh and His atoning sacrifice for sin had not yet been offered. Job had no doubt, however, that Christ was his all-in-all and so confessed a living Saviour in Job 19:25-27. The Messiah would deliver him not only from the vicious attacks of the great deceiver but from all his sins. He would give Job life everlasting in the presence of God, that is, in the very place where Satan was then able to stand.

Satan still accuses us in our own consciences. But when he tempts us, we know that Christ’s finished work took away whatever right he had to appear before God and to bring his slanderous accusations before the Judge of all. Who indeed can now lay anything before God as a charge against one of His elect? Christ not only died for our sins and rose again for our justification, but is now in heaven as living proof that all such charges are baseless. There He prays for us to deliver us from Satan’s attacks here on earth.

It is worth noting that, even though he was still able to bring his wicked accusations against Job, he could only do so under the sovereign direction and control of Almighty God. As one writer puts it, Satan comes “to offer his homage, to receive his commissions, to render his stated account of work done and service performed … in the attitude of a servant of God, and made subservient to the discipline and training of his people … In all his blasphemous designs he is, in spite of himself, doing the work of God … In moving heaven and earth to accomplish the perdition of those whom Christ has ransomed, he is actually fitting them for glory.”

God’s sovereignty over Satan is revealed in Satan’s inability to do anything against Job without God’s permission. Jehovah strictly limited what Satan was able to do. In this first trial, Satan is forbidden to put forth his hand against Job’s person, though he was able to take everything else away from Job. Nor must the word “permission” cause us to stumble and question God’s sovereignty. The word describes what we read in the story of Job, but there is no difference between God permitting Satan to act against Job and God Himself acting, surely not when Satan is entirely in the hand of God.

This comes out especially in Job 1:11, where Satan invites God to put forth His “hand” to “touch” Job’s possessions and family. When God says to Satan, “all that he hath is in thy power” (12), He makes it clear that Satan is merely His instrument. Satan’s own words show that he himself recognized this. Job, whether aware or not of Satan’s agency, understood that it was God who afflicted him and he speaks of this often.

There is a lesson for us: Satan’s activity, even when successful, is under God’s direction and control, so we can be sure that our transgressions, though inexcusable, are nevertheless used by our sovereign God for our good. Certainly that was true in the case of Job. Though he fell prey to the roaring lion who is Satan, even his sin brought him to a better confession of God’s sovereignty and to a humble confession of his sin.

Nevertheless, we ought to tremble when we think of Satan’s power, given by God to be sure, but great indeed. God said of Job to Satan, “Behold, he is in thine hand” (2:6). He is indeed the prince of this world and an enemy to be reckoned with. Only by the grace of the risen and exalted Christ, received by faith and through prayer, is he to be resisted and overcome. Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. • www.youtube.com/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Reformed News Asia - December 2021

Issue 65
Pamphlets

We print pamphlets written by our members and those from other Reformed churches of like-minded faith. They include a wide range of topics from doctrines to church history and practical Christian living. These pamphlets serve to promote knowledge of the true God as expressed in the Reformed faith.
NEWPamphlet!

Please click the picture to get the online copy of the pamphlet.
Questions in the Bible - Matthew & John
By Prof Hermon Hanko

There are many questions within the Bible, 2,540 to be exact.

The Christian Literature Ministry has shortlisted and compiled a list of them based on certain criteria:

i) Can be linked to Christ
ii) Significant in history of church
iii) Spiritual lesson for us
iv) A question we may also ask

After 6 years of effort, 12 books of the bible have been completed. In addition to the 6 meditations from Rev. Lanning, the writers are: Prof. Herman Hanko, Rev. Richard Smit and Rev. Cory Griess. We are grateful for their labour of love.

May you benefit spiritually from the meditations, and pray with us that gradually we may compile more meditations from questions in other books of the Bible.


Click hereto view our catalogue of pamphlets.

Click here to make an order.

All pamphlets are free. CERC reserves some discretion regarding large orders and/or orders from those outside Singapore.
 
Featured Book
For local orders (S'pore), please contact Ms Daisy Lim at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
For international orders, click here.

Through Many Dangers

by P. M. Kuiper


From the RFPA website:

August 1862. Eighteen-year-old Harm van Wyke finds his quiet life in the Dutch Reformed community of Holland, Michigan, upended by the American Civil War. When it becomes clear the war will not be as easily won as once believed, President Lincoln calls for 300,000 volunteers to defend the Union. Harm’s minister, Rev. Albertus van Raalte, encourages the young men of his community to join the cause. Harm’s father bitterly opposes the idea. Harm hesitates to leave his home, but when his friends portray the war as a grand adventure, he gives in and joins them. Together, some eighty boys and young men from Holland join the 25th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

As Harm and his friends travel to army camps in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and then Louisville, Kentucky, they face daily temptations to forget God and turn from their faith. Fellow soldiers think nothing of taking the Lord’s name in vain. They gamble, drink, and “forage” from neighboring homes and farms. Harm and his friends gather regularly to sing the old psalms and discuss the Bible, but still, on occasion, they stumble and fall.

As the war progresses, the boys from Holland battle Confederate General John Hunt Morgan in Western Kentucky, and endure an arduous march to Eastern Tennessee where they join the fighting around Knoxville. Later, they take part in General Sherman’s prolonged and bloody Atlanta campaign. Along the way, Harm and his friends face the harsh realities of war—exposure, disease, injury, and death. In the midst of such hardship, Harm’s faith is tried at every turn. His greatest conflict turns out to be spiritual. Will God give Harm the strength to stand for what is right, even if he finds himself opposed by friends?

 
Audio Recordings
Series of Sermons on Old Testament History preached by Rev Josiah Tan

(1) Understanding Creation By Faith
(2) The Mother Promise
(3) Great Wickedness Before The Flood
(4) God Remembered Noah
 
Upcoming Events!
 
 
Past Events...
 
CERC Reformation Day Conference 2021

The CERC Reformation Day Conference 2021 was held online, over Zoom. There were 2 speeches delivered by Pastor Josiah Tan, followed by a Q&A and a short quiz. The speeches can be found here:

Speech 1: The Word and Creeds in Me
Speech 2: The Reformation Living in Me
 
Visitors from the US

We were glad to have Prof Dykstra, Elder Dave Kregel and their wives in Singapore for a short visit. We were also thankful for Prof Dykstra who led us in 2 weeks of Sunday service. Blessed to have a good time of fellowship with them and thank God for preserving them through their travels and multiple Covid testing. 

Here are some sermons by Prof Dykstra:
The Better, Exalted Spokesman of God
Taking Heed to the Preached Word

 
CKCKS Camp 2021

This year the CKCKS Camp was held from 15 - 18 Dec 2021 under the theme of 'Walk Worthy', Col 1:10-12. Camp participants were split into groups and allocated different houses. We are thankful that various activities such as a cooking competition and tufting or woodworking, etc can still be conducted amidst the various pandemic restrictions. Speeches were held online by various speakers and we thank God for such a means. 

Cook-off!
Tufting (left) and woodworking (right)
 
Christmas Gospel Meeting 2021

The annual Christmas Gosepel Meeting was held online, under the theme: The Prince of Peace. delivered by Pastor Josiah Tan.
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

The speech can be found here:
The Prince of Peace
 
Notes
 
Salt Shakers

Salt Shakers is a bi-monthly magazine published by the youth in Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC). Included in each issue are writings pertaining to bothReformed doctrine and practical theology. Contributors to Salt Shakers include our pastor, youth and members of CERC, and pastors and professors from the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. Salt Shakers also features articles from the Standard Bearer and other Reformed publications. Click here to access.

 
Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church
We are a Reformed Church that holds to the doctrines of the Reformation as they are expressed in the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dordt.

Lord’s Day services on Sunday at 930 am & 2 pm • 11 Jalan Mesin, #04-00, Standard Industrial Building, Singapore 368813 • www.cerc.org.sg 
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Covenant Reformed News - December 2021

 
 
 

Covenant Reformed News


December 2021 • Volume XVIII, Issue 20


Introducing the Four Horsemen of Revelation 6

Horses and horsemen are mentioned some 300 times in the Bible. Zechariah 1 and 6 speak of various coloured horses. John’s vision in Revelation 19 portrays Christ on a white horse followed by His armies of saints upon white horses. But it is the four horsemen of Revelation 6 that are the most famous, and always provoke interest and wonder.

In this series of articles, we will study the identity and meaning of the four horsemen. We shall learn to recognise and listen to their hoof beats. As we see them riding forth, we should pray with all our hearts, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (22:20)!

Right at the beginning, we need to identify the highly significant time period of the four horsemen and the seven seals to which they belong. When does the period of the seals in Revelation 6 end?

The sixth seal takes us to the very door of the final judgment (6:12-17). First, awesome events transpire in the creation: there is a great earthquake, and all mountains and islands are moved out of their places; the sun becomes black as sackcloth and the moon as blood; the stars fall to earth and the heavens are rolled up as a scroll (12-14). In His Olivet discourse, Jesus Christ speaks similarly regarding events at His second coming: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:29-30).

Second, the sixth seal speaks of the “great day” of “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16-17), when all of ungodly humanity, including “great men” and “mighty men,” will cry out in terror (15-16). This is another reference to the last day: “The great day of the Lord is near ... the mighty man shall cry there bitterly” (Zeph. 1:14).

Third, Revelation 6:12-17 introduces the last judgment. Chapter 11:15-19 fills out the picture with verse 18 being especially clear: “thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead [i.e., their resurrection], that they should be judged [i.e., at the great assize], and that thou [1] shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and [2] shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.” Revelation 14:17-20 vividly portrays the harvest of the wicked and their being trampled in “the great winepress of the wrath of God” (19). Chapter 20:11-15 presents the final judgment of all human beings before the great white throne of Jesus Christ, with the wicked being “cast into the lake of fire” (15).

When does the period of the seals in Revelation 6 begin? With the session of Christ, when He opens the seals of the scroll which He took “out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne” (5:7)! The Lamb’s opening the seven seals is His execution of God’s eternal decree as the exalted Lord. Our Redeemer rules in heaven as Jehovah’s vicegerent governing all of world history from the time of His exaltation onwards.

Thus the period of the seals in Revelation 6, including the four horsemen, is from Christ’s session at God’s right hand to His glorious return in the clouds of heaven. James B. Ramsey makes the same point by arguing from seven as the number of the seals: “the uniform and well-established meaning of the number seven in all symbolical representations, and occurring frequently in this book, being completeness in all covenant matters, renders it certain that this book, being a seven-sealed book, implies that it contains, not a part, but the whole perfect scheme of God’s providence in regard to His church” (The Book of Revelation, p. 312). Moreover, as well as being “sealed with seven seals,” the book or scroll is “written within and on the backside” (5:1). In other words, the book is full since it is the complete record of all of history from Christ’s enthronement at His ascension until His bodily return.

Clearly the book and the opening of its seven seals deal with past, present and future, from our perspective in the twenty-first century. It covers that which has been, is and will be. It treats the period between our Lord’s first and second comings.

To state it antithetically, the seals of Revelation 6, including the four horsemen, do not speak exclusively of the past, whether the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 or the Roman Empire, as postmillennialists claim. Nor do the four horsemen and the six seals speak solely of times future to us, say, the literal seven-year tribulation after the rapture and before Christ’s return, as postulated by dispensationalism.

Some claim that the four horsemen in Revelation 6 ride forth chronologically, with the white horse (1-2) covering the first couple of centuries or so after Christ’s exaltation, the red horse (3-4) dealing with the period after that and so on. Such a type of interpretation is mechanical and not the idea of biblical prophecy or apocalyptic. It is also speculative and unprovable, leading to many differences in identification. Does anyone really expect the ordinary believer to know the world’s history for the last 2,000 years so as to be able to identify this or that event or person as the specific fulfilment of each of the many sections in Revelation 6-19? We hold the biblical and Reformed principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture as the way of understanding God’s Word!

The truth is that the four horsemen ride forth throughout the New Testament age from Christ’s coronation in heaven to His return with clouds. They occur contemporaneously throughout this period, portraying the main aspects of the history of the gospel era and intensifying as the end approaches! Rev. Stewart

 

 

Christ's Miracles and Two Natures

The question for this issue of the News is, “While on earth did Christ perform miracles by His Deity or because He received the fullness of the Spirit in His human nature or some combination of these two or something else? Could you please explain?”

There can be no doubt that the power to perform miracles is the power of God. As the Son of God, Jesus had that power in Himself and did not need to have that power given Him as others did. Jesus Himself refers to His miracles as proof of His divinity (John 10:37-38) and the fourth gospel concludes with the same testimony: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (20:30-31) Mere men, like the twelve apostles, had to receive the power to perform miracles from God (cf. Matt. 10:1).

Christ’s divinity and humanity may not be separated, however, in His miracle-working. As the only begotten Son, He was able to perform and did perform many miracles, but He performed them as the Son of man. He shows us this in His healing the paralysed man who was let down by his friends into the presence of Jesus through the roof (9:1-8). Claiming both the power to forgive sins and to heal, He refers to Himself as the Son of man, that is, the one born in our flesh and like us in all things except sin: “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house” (6). The passage concludes with the thoughts of those who witnessed the miracle (and they were not wrong): “But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (8).

But Matthew 9:8 implies that Christ, as man, had to receive the power to perform miracles. As Matthew 28:18 and John 10:18 suggest, Jesus was truly a man in that He had to receive the power He had to lay down His life and to do miracles. How could He at the same time have that power as the eternal Son and also have to receive it? This is the mystery of the incarnation: God came in the flesh!

The preceding raises this question: What about miracles in our day? That is, does God still give power to men to perform miracles as Jesus Himself, according to His human nature received it and as He gave that power to His disciples?

Scripture’s answer is “No.” Miracles are “the signs of an apostle” (II Cor. 12:12) and, since there no longer are any apostles, any who were eyewitnesses of Christ’s earthly ministry and resurrection, there can be no more miracles performed by men. Nor are they needed, since the Scriptures are completed and the miracles were only ever a witness to God’s Word and extraordinary office-bearers (Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:4).

Another issue raised by the question we have answered concerns the relationship between the two natures of Christ, His human and divine natures. The church of God, following the teaching of the Word, has always insisted that Christ’s two natures are united in one Person and must not be separated. After the incarnation, all that He did was done by One who was both God and man. It was God come in the flesh who was born in Bethlehem; God and man in one Person who walked the roads of Galilee and performed many mighty works. It was God incarnate who taught the people, called the disciples together, ate and drank with them, and lived among them. It was God manifest in the flesh who was arrested in Gethsemane, was tried and condemned and crucified, and who died for our sins and rose again on the third day and ascended into heaven, and who continues there for our interest until the end of the world.

That is the great “mystery of godliness” (I Tim. 3:16). God cannot suffer and die, and so we say that Christ suffered according to His human nature, but it was only as the eternal Son of God that Christ was able to bear the wrath of God against sin and deliver us from it, doing what no mere man could do. That mystery is evident in His miracles as well. When He stilled the wind and waves of the Sea of Galilee with a word, He did that as the same Person who moments before had been sleeping, exhausted and unheeding of the storm. The same Person who wept at the tomb of Lazarus was able to call life out of death when He raised His friend. This is indeed a great mystery, a mystery which ought to delight the souls of all who believe in Jesus. The mystery of God manifest in the flesh is proof that He is everything we need as Saviour, man to pay for man’s sins and God to do what man could never do.

The two natures of Christ may not, therefore, be separated, as the Creed of Chalcedon (451) states, “one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” I mention this because I have met people who think that Christ, when He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, left His humanity behind. If that were indeed the case, we would have no part or interest in Him any longer. He is still God manifest in the flesh. As God incarnate, He prays for us in heaven, prepares a place for us, rules over all things on our behalf and readies all things for the day of His return.

Everything He does, therefore, He does as God come in our likeness, and everything He does is miraculous and wonderful. He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. He suffered all His life long but took that suffering upon Himself—it did not just happen to Him. He, God and man in one Person, gave Himself to shame and spitting (Isa. 50:6). He controlled all the events leading up to His death, sending Judas out to do his evil work, surrendering Himself to those who came to arrest Him and testifying to Pilate that he, the representative of mighty Rome, had no power but what had been given him by God. He died, not because His life was taken from Him but, because He laid it down (John 10:18) which, for a mere man, would be suicide. He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. One stands amazed at every word He spoke and all He did.

And the greatest wonder of all is in these two words: “for me.” The incarnate Son came for my salvation and did so in the everlasting love of God, but also in His love and pity as One who was touched with the feeling of my infirmity. This He did for me, one who is no better or more worthy than others and who, until He rescued me by a miracle of grace, was lost with no hope of being found. Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. • www.youtube.com/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Covenant Reformed News - November 2021

Covenant Reformed News


November 2021 • Volume XVIII, Issue 19



Jehovah’s Departure From His Apostatising People

The Bible uses especially three images for Jehovah’s departure from His apostatising people. First, in the days of Bezaleel’s tabernacle, the ark of the covenant was taken (I Sam. 4). Second, in the days of Solomon’s temple, the God of glory rode off in His angelic chariot (Eze. 10). Third, in the days of the New Testament church, the candlestick or lampstand is removed (Rev. 2:5).

What does it mean when the Almighty declares that terrifying word: “Ichabod” (I Sam. 4:21)? Ichabod means “no glory,” referring to the absence of God’s glory for His “glory is departed from Israel,” as the text explains (21). “Ichabod” is the declaration that the glorious Triune God has left His unfaithful people, those who once were His church in their generations, those who falsely claim to belong to Him.

Though the word “Ichabod” was uttered at the loss of the ark from Israel’s tabernacle (I Sam. 4), Ichabod well describes the departure of God’s glory from the temple in Old Testament days (Eze. 10) or a congregation or denomination in the New Testament era (Rev. 2:5).

The glory of the blessed Trinity is revealed in the face of our Lord Jesus according to the sacred Scriptures. Christ is “the glory of the Lord” and “the glory of God” (II Cor. 3:18; 4:6). The Son of God and Son of man is “the Lord of glory” (I Cor. 2:8; James 2:1). He is this as the One who fully satisfied for all the sins of God’s elect through His bitter and shameful death on the cross. He is this as the mighty resurrected Saviour, who ascended into heaven and now powerfully rules over absolutely all things.

The apostasy of a church is well described as Christ’s removal of its candlestick or lampstand (Rev. 2:5), for it has been overcome with the darkness of unbelief and sin, and no longer shines forth the light of God’s Word. The gospel of the incarnate Son, who is “the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5), is no longer proclaimed and maintained there. Thus the Lamb of God judges a congregation or denomination by removing its candlestick or lampstand.

The truth of the Lord Jesus is lost, first, through the corruption of church discipline when wicked living and false doctrine are swept under the carpet or even promoted. Second, a congregation or denomination falls away when it baptizes those who lack a credible profession of faith and/or their young children, or when it pollutes the Lord’s Supper by allowing anyone who wants to partake without proper supervision by the elders (open communion), etc. Third, apostasy develops through deceitful preaching, including the false doctrines of salvation by man’s free will (Rom. 9:16; Eph. 2:8-9), an impotent God who desires to save everybody but does not and cannot (Ps. 115:3; Rom. 9:10-24), an errant Bible (John 10:35; II Tim. 3:16), etc.

In Ezekiel’s prophecy, it is the abominable idolatry of chapter 8 and the gross wickedness of chapter 9 that lead to the departure of God’s glory in chapter 10. In the book of Revelation, a church whose candlestick or lampstand is removed (2:5) becomes a “synagogue of Satan” (2:9; 3:9)!

This biblical imagery and teaching helps us understand the last 2,000 years of church history. The glory of God has left Jerusalem in Israel and Antioch in Syria, the two most prominent churches in the book of Acts. The divine chariot has departed from (what is now called) Turkey, where the most famous ecumenical creeds were written: the Nicene-Constantinopolitan (325, 381) and the Chalcedonian (451). Faithful teachers of God’s sovereign grace, such as Augustine of Hippo (354-430) and Fulgentius of Ruspe (c.467-c.532), once served the church of North Africa but, since the seventh century, this region has been under Islam. By and large, the gospel departed from Southern Europe as Semi-Pelagianism and Roman Catholicism took hold. The Word of God was strong in Bohemia in the fifteenth century in the days of Jan Hus but now the Czech Republic has one of the highest rates of atheism in the world. With the coming of the Protestant Reformation, Wittenberg, Geneva, Heidelberg and Cambridge became bastions of God’s truth, but His glory has long since departed from them. What about Congregationalist New England or Presbyterian Princeton in the USA? The gold has become dim (Lam. 4:1)!

It is not that there are no believers in these universities or cities or regions. Nor are churches or missions in these places doomed or pointless. But clearly Antioch, N. Africa, Prague, Geneva, etc., are far from what they once were, though, even in these locations, “there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5).

God’s wonderful chariot has departed from some areas and ridden into others, like Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia. In these places, the Word of life is having more of an impact than ever before, though, of course, there are struggles there too. The whole catholic or universal church consisting of all the elect of all nations must be gathered. All of the sheep out of every kindred, tribe and tongue must see the glory of God in Jesus Christ by faith alone (Isa. 66:18-19)!

The departure of God’s chariot from the temple in Ezekiel 10 is a warning to His people in all ages, including us. Our calling is to love, confess and obey God’s truth by His grace alone. We must look to our Lord Jesus—His perfect life, His atoning sacrifice, His omnipotent intercession and His second coming—for our justification, sanctification and our all, for it is in Christ alone that God is pleased to dwell among us in mercy by His Holy Spirit. Rev. Angus Stewart

 

Children of Wrath and a Changeable God?

“What about Ephesians 2:3’s reference to believers once being ‘children of wrath, even as others’? We believe that God is unchangeable in His being, attributes, works, etc. But how do we explain the ‘change’ in the lives of God’s elect from formerly being in a state of wrath to being in a state of grace? Doesn’t this indicate a ‘change’ in God’s relationship to us? One moment He is only wrathful toward us because we are not yet in Christ and in constant rebellion, and then, when we are saved, we are no longer in that state? Doesn’t this indicate a change in God’s dispositions towards men? (And therefore He is not ‘absolutely’ unchangeable but is changeable in one sense?)”

There are several things that need to be emphasized in answer to this question.

First, God’s unchangeableness or immutability must not be questioned or denied. He establishes this important truth in Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I change not.” He uses there the name Jehovah, “I am that I am” (Ex. 3:14-15) which not only reveals His immutability but shows that there is no past, present or future in Him. As the “I Am,” with no past, present or future in Him, there cannot possibly be any change in Him or in His dispositions. If He is changeable, He is not God: “the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent” (I Sam. 15:29).

Barthianism and Open Theism both teach that God is changeable but, sadly, so do many evangelicals. Trying to maintain God’s immutability while at the same time denying it, they say things such as, “God decrees for Himself a series of different dispositions,” i.e., He eternally decrees that He will change His mind, first being gracious to some and then sending them to hell or first declaring in the gospel that He wants them to be saved and afterward eternally punishing them. Such denies God’s unchangeableness.

Our salvation and well-being depend on God’s unchangeableness. Because He does not change, the sons of Jacob, both in the Old and New Testaments, are not consumed (Mal. 3:6). He is unchangeable as God, unchangeable in His eternal decrees, unchangeable in His attributes, including His love, grace and mercy, for what we call His attributes are simply descriptions of who and what He is. He is unchangeable in His works and ways, and in His revelation of Himself, so we may safely put our trust in Him.

Second, wrath and love (or mercy) are not opposites, nor mutually exclusive. This is a mistake that is often made. That God can be, and is, angry with His people whom He loves is not the same as hating them. Hatred is the opposite of love; anger is not. God eternally loves His people, yet before a believer is converted and when he walks in sin thereafter, God is angry with him and reveals His anger in chastisement. Anger can be loving and love can reveal itself in anger. God’s anger with His people is eternally loving. Indeed, a love that does not become angry at sin and excuses or overlooks it is no love at all. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (Heb. 12:6-8).

As Hebrews suggests, this is true even in family life. Those of us who are parents do our children a great wrong when we are not angry with their sins and do not show our anger in punishing their sins. That anger must be directed and controlled by love, but a father who constantly overlooks and ignores the sins of his children is showing that he really does not love them. Children understand that and, especially in the case of covenant children, expect and even want their parents to correct them.

We who are saved, therefore, were children of wrath even as others. Though we are among God’s elect and loved by Him from eternity, until we were regenerated we were under His wrath. Indeed, it is an awareness of the awful wrath of God against sin that is one of the first proofs that a person is being spiritually awakened by His Spirit.

We are children of wrath by our first birth and by nature as children of Adam, born and conceived in sin. We are that even as others for, apart from God’s grace, we are no different from those who perish, no better, no more worthy of salvation. The only difference is that God, “who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5).

We experience God’s anger too, when we are rebellious and disobedient. He chastises us, and we know and feel that He is angry with us for our sin. For a child of God, that is unbearable and it is often used by God to turn us from our sins back to Himself. That was David’s experience: “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer” (Ps. 32:3-4). It was only when he confessed and forsook his sin that he experienced once again the favour of a reconciled God.

God’s displeasure and wrath with sin is revealed nowhere more clearly than at the cross where, in just anger, He punished our sins to the utmost, while at the same time revealing His great love for us. That was true of Christ also. God was never so pleased with His beloved Son as when He bore without complaint Jehovah’s punitive wrath. Surely the cross proves that wrath and love are not opposites or incompatibles.

Third, the change in our experience from being children of wrath to children who know God’s mercy and favour is a matter of our experience and not of change in Him. He is forever and unchangeably a God who hates and punishes sins, “not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness” (Ps. 5:4). He is also forever and unchangeably a God of mercy who has eternally and unchangeably loved us and who, when we sin against Him, reveals that unchangeable love in angry chastisement. His anger and chastisement are both loving and saving, for, as we have seen, the revelation of His unchangeable anger with sin is one of the means He has ordained to bring us to repentance and faith in Christ.

There are few things more wonderful than to experience the favour of God after being conscious of His wrath and displeasure for our sin. God says, “In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer” (Isa. 54:8). And we respond, “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. • www.youtube.com/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Covenant Reformed News - October 2021

 

Covenant Reformed News


October 2021 • Volume XVIII, Issue 18



God’s Chariot Departs From the Temple

In the last issue of the News, we saw that the four cherubs or living creatures or angels of Ezekiel 10 each possess four faces and four wings. Now we note that every one of them has hands (1:8; 10:21). Probably these cherubs had two hands each since angels in Scripture are presented as having a largely human form: “the hands of a man” (21). Next month, we will say more about the important use to which one angel’s hand is put, DV. Here we merely observe that horses that pull earthly chariots are excellent beasts but, given that they have no hands, there are a lot of things that they cannot do!

These four living creatures with four faces, four wings and (two) hands are also full of eyes (12), like the four wheels. Their amazing vision enables the cherubs to avoid any collisions and escape all attacks.

Having concluded our consideration of the wheels and steeds of the divine chariot in Ezekiel 10, we now turn to its platform. In earthly chariots in biblical times, the platform was made of wood or metal. Thus we read of Sisera’s 900 “chariots of iron” (Judg. 4:3). This is Ezekiel’s description of the platform above the angels: “the likeness of the firmament [i.e., expanse] upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above” (1:22). Whatever it was, the platform had a crystalline sparkle that induced awe!

There were no seats in the chariots of Old Testament days. Depending on the size and function of the vehicle, one or two or three men stood in the chariot, which must have been tiring over long distances. So what was above the platform of the divine chariot? Ezekiel “looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne” (10:1). The word rendered “sapphire” is lapis lazuli. Resting upon the platform of God’s chariot is a brilliant deep blue throne made of one gorgeous stone!

A chariot in the ancient world was a sign of wealth, power and prestige, but what about God’s chariot in Ezekiel? It moves on four gigantic, omnidirectional wheels full of eyes; it is pulled by four cherubs with four faces, four wings and (two) hands; it has a platform of brilliant crystal, on which rests a throne of sparkling blue lapis lazuli!

Now that we have explained the nature of Jehovah’s magnificent chariot, we turn to its movement in connection with God’s glory. In the Old Testament, as is well known, God’s glory cloud was over the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies, the most sacred part of Solomon’s temple.

Jehovah’s chariot (with its wheels, living creatures, platform and throne) moves to the south of the door of the temple building: “Now the cherubims [conveying God’s chariot] stood on the right side [i.e., south] of the house” (3). The divine conveyance has taxied into position.

God’s glory cloud now leaves the ark in the holy of holies and moves to the temple entrance or the threshold of this mighty edifice: “Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub [in the inner sanctum], and stood over the threshold of the house [i.e., temple]; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord’s glory” (4).

Thus God’s glory cloud is at the temple threshold and His chariot is just to the south in the inner court. The four living creatures are, as it were, raring to go: “And the sound of the cherubims’ wings was heard even to the outer court, as the voice of the Almighty God when he speaketh” (5). Like motorbikes revving loudly on the grid of a grand prix, the angels are eager to get started. Once God’s glory cloud mounts the throne of His chariot, they will be off!

Indeed, this is what happens, for Jehovah enters His magnificent chariot and sits on His throne: “Then the glory of the Lord departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims” (18). Next, God’s glory leaves the temple building and its precincts: “And the cherubims lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord’s house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above” (19). Almighty God has departed from His temple!

So what is the lesson in all this for us? Ezekiel 10 teaches that a congregation or denomination can (and often does) apostatize, like Judah, so that the Triune God leaves it. This stands over against the Church of Rome’s claim that it is indefectible, that it cannot depart from God’s Word so that He departs from it. Rome states that, whereas individuals within her communion may apostatize, it is impossible for the church or institute of Roman Catholicism ever to do so.

The truth is that it is not only possible for Rome to apostatize and for God to leave it, but that this happened a long time ago! Rome is committed to evolutionism and higher criticism of sacred Scripture. It denies God’s all-encompassing providence and the infallibility of the Bible. The papacy’s seven sacraments are unbiblical, including baptismal regeneration, transubstantiation, masses for the dead, the worship of the wafer and the last rites. Rome’s doctrines of Mariolatry, free will, salvation by works, purgatory, indulgences, etc., are an attack on God’s sovereign grace and Christ’s cross (Gal. 2:20).

Moreover, any church or denomination can fall way and many have. In the history of Protestantism, some churches are now false and others no longer exist in any form. But this will have to wait until the next issue of the News, DV. Rev. Angus Stewart

 

The Advantage of the Jews

One of our readers writes, “In Romans 3, Paul says that the Jews, as a people, had an ‘advantage’ compared to the Gentiles in that ‘unto them were committed the oracles of God’ (1-2). Were not the Jews, therefore, externally blessed in this regard? They had tremendous access to the Word of God, not only in written form, but they also heard it directly from the prophets themselves—whereas the rest of the world were not given this (Ps. 147:19-20; Amos 3:2). The Jews also had the rite of circumcision and the privilege of being the covenant people of God. Paul writes in Romans 9 that to them, as a people, also pertained ‘the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises’ and even the privilege of being the very people ‘of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came’ (4-5). Were they not therefore blessed in this regard, having been given so many advantages, privileges and benefits? Similarly, surely a child born into a believing household can be said to be advantaged. He has the Scriptures read to him by his parents, he hears the gospel preached in church, and is even baptized and included as a member of a church, whereas children born outside the church to unbelieving parents are not given such an advantage; they’re not blessed in this way …”

The brother who submitted the question is correct in using the word “tremendous” to describe the privileges the Jews enjoyed in the Old Testament and still enjoy in some ways in the New Testament age. Romans 9:4-5 describes many of those privileges and so do other passages, such as Deuteronomy 4:7-8: “For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” and Deuteronomy 4:20: “But the Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day” (cf. 4:32-36). Romans 11:23-27 speaks of the privilege they still enjoy.

The brother is also right in suggesting that these privileges are the “advantage” to which the Word of God refers in Romans 3:1-2. Their advantage was not that they were able to save themselves by their own works, that is, by the works of the law, but simply that they were given privileges which the heathen nations were not given. As Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22) or was in Old Testament days, before our Lord’s atoning death and His pouring out the Holy Spirit.

As the brother points out, these privileges are similar to those enjoyed by a child born into a covenant home, whose parents are believers. It is not only a covenant child, however, who enjoys such privileges but anyone who is a member of a faithful Christian church, whose friends and family are fellow believers, who has the Word of God (the “oracles” of Romans 3:1-2) at hand, who hears the preaching of the gospel regularly and who, in times of need, has others who will help and pray for him. Some even enjoy the privilege of working for a Christian employer or with believers.

These privileges or advantages are not to be taken lightly. They are means God uses for the salvation of elect covenant children, and for our growth in grace and knowledge. He shows us that He is pleased to use such means when they work for our own spiritual profit and the profit of others, but He also reminds us that He is sovereign and depends on no one and nothing when these privileges bear no good fruit, as among many of the Jews. When a child goes astray in spite of the instruction and example he received, and when our efforts to help and admonish a brother are in vain, then God especially shows that salvation is of the Lord.

Nevertheless, when God does use them for good, they are inestimable blessings. They work, as do all things, for the salvation and good of those who love God and who are the called according to His purpose. But the crucial question is, Are they also blessings to those who do not profit from them, like the unbelieving Jews? Does God bestow mercy, grace, lovingkindness upon those who ultimately perish in unbelief?

That God does not show grace, mercy, lovingkindness to those who perish is the teaching of the CPRC and the PRC, the churches to which I belong. If some of our readers are interested in further reading on that point there is material in the CPRC bookstore and on the CPRC website (www.cprc.co.uk/resources-on-uncommon-grace).

Several things must be remembered as far as the good things received by the reprobate are concerned: (1) they are temporal and temporary only; (2) they have nothing to do with any saving grace of God in Jesus Christ for them.

It is not wrong to say that God gives good things to those who never believe and who perish in their unbelief, but that does not mean He loves them or shows favour to them. In fact, such things are cursed by God and work for the ruin of the reprobate who receive them (Ps. 73:18-20). They leave their recipients under greater condemnation.

Jesus makes that clear in His words of judgment against Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum (Matt. 11:21-24): “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee” (cf. Matt. 12:41-42).

It all comes down to this: “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48). We, who profess to follow Jesus Christ, have many privileges and blessings, and we must be thankful to the living God for them, treasure them, profit from them and use them well or we stand where the unbelieving Jews stood, who had everything taken away from them for their hardness of heart, unthankfulness and disobedience. Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. • www.youtube.com/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Reformed News Asia - September 2021 (Issue 64)

Issue 64
Pamphlets

We print pamphlets written by our members and those from other Reformed churches of like-minded faith. They include a wide range of topics from doctrines to church history and practical Christian living. These pamphlets serve to promote knowledge of the true God as expressed in the Reformed faith.
NEWPamphlet!

Please click the picture to get the online copy of the pamphlet.
Questions in the Bible - Jonah
By Prof Hermon Hanko

This project was inspired by 'Pastoral Voice' written by Rev. Andy Lanning for CERC in Oct 13-Jan 14 which covered 6 questions in Genesis.

There are many questions within the Bible, 2,540 to be exact.

The Christian Literature Ministry has shortlisted and compiled a list of them based on certain criteria:

i) Can be linked to Christ
ii) Significant in history of church
iii) Spiritual lesson for us
iv) A question we may also ask

After 6 years of effort, 12 books of the bible have been completed. In addition to the 6 meditations from Rev. Lanning, the writers are: Prof. Herman Hanko, Rev. Richard Smit and Rev. Cory Griess. We are grateful for their labour of love.

May you benefit spiritually from the meditations, and pray with us that gradually we may compile more meditations from questions in other books of the Bible.


Click here  to view our catalogue of pamphlets.

Click here to make an order.

All pamphlets are free. CERC reserves some discretion regarding large orders and/or orders from those outside Singapore.
 
Featured Book
For local orders (S'pore), please contact Ms Daisy Lim at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
For international orders, click here.

The Church's Hope: The Reformed Doctrine of the End

by David J. Engelsma


From the RFPA website:

The Christian’s hope is the visible, bodily, glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ on the clouds of heaven with the resurrection of the Christian’s body, the public vindication of the Christian at the last judgment, and the enjoyment of the glories of the new creation.

David J. Engelsma writes on eschatology in the service of the church’s hope. This volume treats the magnificent subjects of the intermediate state and the millennium. The bulk of this book is devoted to a thorough analysis of the millennium, with a vigorous defense of Reformed amillennialism. Especially thorough is Engelsma’s critique of postmillennialism, which he sees as a threat to Reformed churches. Both postmillennialism and dispensational premillennialism subvert the church’s hope. Postmillenialism fixes the believer’s hope on a golden age within history in which the church will be dominant—a carnal victory. Dispensational premillenialism fixes the believer’s hope on a fictitious rapture, which will snatch the church out of the world so that God can fulfill his program in history with the Jews. Both views leave the church unprepared for the future.

As Engelsma demonstrates, the last things—centrally the coming of Christ—are the purpose and goal of all the revelation of God in scripture, from beginning to end. This book will encourage the Christian as he heeds Christ’s instruction regarding that coming: “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).

 
Audio Recordings
Series of Sermons on Pastors and Teachers preached, by Rev Josiah Tan

Pastors & Teachers Given (1)
Pastors & Teachers Given (2): Equipped to Serve
Pastors & Teachers Given (3): Equipping & Serving till arriving at unity
Pastors & Teachers Given (4): Doctrinal Stability
 
Upcoming Events!
 
Stay tuned...
 
 
Past Events...
 
Ordination of Rev Josiah Tan 

We are extremely blessed and thankful to God for providing CERC with a Resident Minister, Rev Josiah Tan, who was ordained on 22 August 2021. It's a joyous matter and we again thank God for his gracious providence. May we continue to pray for Rev Tan as he labours in our midst, that God may give him the utterance to preach God's word, wisdom in all things and that God's name may be glorified.

"And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." Jeremiah 3:15
Ordination of Rev Josiah Tan 
 
Infant Baptism

We were blessed to witness the Infant Baptism of 3 children recently -
Faith Boon, daughter of Cornelius and Jemima
Hayley Ho, daughter of Milton and Celina
Elle Lee, daughter of Michael and June.

Thank God for adding to the church!

 
Notes
 
Salt Shakers

Salt Shakers is a bi-monthly magazine published by the youth in Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC). Included in each issue are writings pertaining to bothReformed doctrine and practical theology. Contributors to Salt Shakers include our pastor, youth and members of CERC, and pastors and professors from the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. Salt Shakers also features articles from the Standard Bearer and other Reformed publications. Click here to access.

 
Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church
We are a Reformed Church that holds to the doctrines of the Reformation as they are expressed in the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dordt.

Lord’s Day services on Sunday at 930 am & 2 pm • 11 Jalan Mesin, #04-00, Standard Industrial Building, Singapore 368813 • www.cerc.org.sg 
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Covenant Reformed News - September 2021

Covenant Reformed News


September 2021 • Volume XVIII, Issue 17



The Wheels and Steeds of God’s Chariot

Ezekiel 10 contains an amazing theophany or appearance of Almighty God. We behold His glory cloud and throne, as well as four huge wheels and four cherubs, with eyes filling both the four wheels and the four cherubs.

But what is going on in Ezekiel 10? What unifies the various elements of the theophany or vision of God? The divine chariot! And what a chariot it is!

What is the idea of the chariot in Ezekiel 10? In a nutshell, Jehovah in His awesome chariot is leaving His temple in Jerusalem because of Judah’s grievous sins. Then, and only then, will the city fall and the house of God be destroyed.

Chariots were the most expensive and impressive means of conveyance in the biblical world. Wealthy and powerful King Solomon was the first in Israel to acquire chariots on a national scale and station them in strategic cities (I Kings 4:26; 9:19; 10:26). Chariots indicated regal splendour and military might.

Pharaoh’s Egyptian army was not the only force with chariots at the Red Sea. There Jehovah rode upon His “horses” and “chariots of salvation” (Hab. 3:8). Psalm 104:3-4 proclaims that God “maketh the clouds his chariot,” “walketh upon the wings of the wind” and “maketh his angels spirits,” “his ministers a flaming fire.” According to Psalm 18:10, the Lord “rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.” This psalm goes on to speak of His majestic presence in terms of “darkness,” “thick clouds,” “brightness,” “hail stones,” “coals of fire” and “lightnings” (11-14).

What about chariot wheels? In the ancient world, man-made chariots had either two or four wheels, with the four-wheeled chariots being larger, more costly and more powerful. Jehovah’s chariot has four identical wheels in Ezekiel 1 and 10.

The wheels of earthly chariots were a few feet in diameter but those of the divine chariot are “so high that they were dreadful” (1:18). Imagine, for a moment, four wheels that are each, say, 45 yards or 50 metres high!

In Ezekiel’s visions, God’s chariot has wheels within wheels (1:16; 10:10). In English literature and language, “wheels within wheels” is a metaphor for that which is highly complicated, often involving secret scheming and machinations.

However, when Ezekiel describes the four wheels of God’s chariot “as if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel” (10), he is stating that these wheels are omnidirectional. Jehovah has no trouble in manoeuvring His chariot, unlike the difficulty a human charioteer has in turning a man-made chariot with its wheels.

Whereas earthly chariot wheels contained nails or other means of attachment, God’s chariot wheels are filled with eyes (1:18; 10:12). This imagery strikes us as surreal and unnerving. In Ezekiel’s vision, the point is that even God’s wheels have eyes to see and can see everything, bespeaking the divine omniscience.

One of the major dangers for those in earthly chariots in a battle was that they could not see everything that was going on in the melee. They did not have eyes in the back of their heads, as we often put it. How different for the all-seeing and all-knowing Triune God when He rides forth in His chariot!

Have you grasped it? Four gigantic omnidirectional wheels filled with eyes! These are the amazing wheels of the stupendous chariot of the omniscient divine rider!

In Old Testament times, chariots were pulled by two or three or four horses, but who or what pulls God’s chariot? Ezekiel 1 refers to them as four “living creatures” (5, 13-15, 19-22), bursting with vitality and vigour, unlike the beasts of burden that grow tired.

Ezekiel 10 identifies the four living creatures as cherubs (15, 20) who protect and guard the divine presence (cf. Gen. 3:24; Ex. 25:20). That these living creatures or cherubs are angels is evident from the Psalms, for a cherub pulls the divine chariot in one place (18:10) but angels perform this task in another text (104:3-4). Pharaoh, Solomon and Nebuchadnezzar doubtless chose their most powerful horses to pull their chariots, but, unlike the Most High God, they did not have mighty angels to perform this work!

Each of the four angels has four faces: the faces of a man, an ox (a domestic animal), a lion (a wild animal) and an eagle (a bird). These four angelic steeds far excel horses that pull an earthly chariot, for each possesses and vastly surpasses the intelligence of a man, the strength of an ox, the royalty of a lion and the flight of an eagle.

Each of the four cherubs not only has four faces but also four wings. With their wings, the living creatures can move the chariot up (the angels are under the chariot, not in front of it) and down, as well as backward and forward. Thus God’s chariot not only has four omnidirectional wheels but four heavenly steeds that can move in any direction.

With their wings, the living creatures can speed the chariot very fast, much quicker than any prize stallions. Yet this rapid, omnidirectional conveyance of the divine chariot by the cherubs is effortless. To rise, they simply lift up their wings (Eze. 10:16, 19; 11:22); no flapping is needed (1:9). To stand still, they merely let down their wings (24-25). Unlike horses, their legs and feet always stay straight (7).

The living creatures move the wheels and the chariot fast, yet effortlessly, and omnidirectionally, yet perfectly smoothly. No lengthy turning manoeuvres are needed. God’s chariot never lists to one side or gets stuck in a rut. There is a perfect correspondence between the movement of the four angels and that of the chariot’s four wheels, “for the spirit of the living creature was in them” (10:17; 1:20, 21). Imagine the smooth conveyance of an earthly chariot if the spirit of the horse were also in the wheels! Rev. Stewart

 

A Shipwrecked Faith

The question I’ve chosen to answer in this issue of the News is this: “In I Timothy 1:19 we read, ‘Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.’ Arminians argue that a man who is said to have ‘shipwrecked’ his faith is someone who once had true saving faith but who, through his sinful way of life, is now lost and will perish everlastingly. How else are we to understand what Paul is talking about here?”

Before answering the question, it should be noted that Paul is speaking to Timothy as a minister of the gospel and through him to every minister of the gospel. Those who preach the gospel of grace must themselves be examples of what they preach. They must themselves believe the gospel, holding fast to the Word of God, and they must live a life of moral purity. The exhortation of the apostle Paul, therefore, is timely especially today when we hear so often of the lamentable falls of those who bring the gospel and of other preachers who seem to believe nothing.

Most commentators take “faith” to refer to the (objective) faith, the doctrines and teaching of the Word of God, but that is not the way the word is used in the context. In every other reference in I Timothy 1 (2, 4, 5, 14), the reference is to the grace of believing. That, however, makes the question we are answering even more urgent. Those of whom Paul speaks did not just put away the (objective) faith but faith itself. Did they first have true saving faith and then put it away?

Since we believe the great biblical doctrine of the preservation and perseverance of the saints, we know that saving faith and a good conscience cannot be lost, nor can those who really have them go shipwreck. Jesus says in John 6:37-40, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Faith and a good conscience once received as a gift of God cannot be lost (Phil. 1:6; I Pet. 1:5). Faith and a good conscience were purchased for God’s own at the cross and given to us by the Spirit, and neither the work of the Son nor the work of the Spirit can be in vain.

But what does the Word of God in I Timothy 1:19 mean, then?

Some explain the passage by focusing on the word shipwreck and suggesting that shipwreck does not necessarily mean that those who are shipwrecked perish everlastingly. They may only suffer loss. In other words, Paul is describing those who wander from the right way and suffer spiritually as a result, but repent and return, and so are saved. That explanation might work except that Paul is talking about Hymenaeus and Alexander (20), who were blasphemers and heretics (cf. II Tim. 2:17-18), and whom Paul had committed to Satan (I Tim. 1:20), and who, as far as we know, never repented of their evil deeds and doctrines.

Paul uses a word translated “put away,” but this does not imply that these wicked men ever had true faith and a good conscience. The same word is used of the unbelieving Jews in Acts 13:46 and the translation there gives a better sense of what the word means: “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” The Jews to whom Paul spoke never had saving faith and a good conscience, but, when those things were preached to them, they “pushed them away” and “rejected” them.

That is what the evildoers of I Timothy 1:19-20 did, especially Hymenaeus and Alexander. Though they had been in the church for a time, they had in word and deed rejected faith and a good conscience—they never believed and never lived the kind of life that gives a good conscience before God. One can put away and reject what one never had in one’s heart.

In II Timothy 2:17-18, Hymanaeus is mentioned again, along with another man named Philetus. They denied the future bodily resurrection and so overthrew “the faith of some.” Some believed their lies and not the truths of Scripture, and that troubled others in the church, suggesting to them that it is possible to have faith and a good conscience, but then lose everything. Paul tells those worriers in II Timothy 2 that God’s people cannot be lost: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (19).

It should also be noted that in I Timothy 1:19 the Word of God does not say that they put away faith. It states that “some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.” In rejecting crucial teachings of Scripture, they also rejected faith in Christ as the only way of salvation, and the necessity of a holy and God-glorifying life. They did not really believe and in their unbelief they made shipwreck concerning faith.

The reference to shipwreck does not mean either that they were shipwrecked but managed to salvage something in the end. It refers to the complete destruction of the “ship” in which they sailed and of themselves. To make shipwreck concerning faith and a good conscience does not leave any hope of salvage.

It is understandable, though, that the apostasy of some distresses the people of God, for men like Hymenaeus and Alexander are often very knowledgeable and prominent in the church, have a reputation for piety and are looked up to by many. They may even be ministers of the gospel whose falls Satan uses to attack the assurance of some.

It is important in such cases to remember what the Word says in II Timothy 2:19. God knows who are His own, and His knowledge of them is eternal, unchangeable, almighty and saving. They cannot be lost and cannot lose what God has given them. Also believers, by departing from iniquity, show that they are different from those who make shipwreck concerning faith and a good conscience. Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.www.youtube.com/cprcniwww.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Covenant Reformed News - August 2021

Covenant Reformed News


August 2021 • Volume XVIII, Issue 16



Catholicity Reflected in Sacraments and Corrupted by Errors

The sacraments of the New Testament church reflect its possession of a greater catholicity than the Old Testament church. Baptism is administered to people speaking different languages all around the world in many countries. One does not have to join the nation of Israel or move to the land of Canaan to become a member of Christ’s kingdom. Females are baptized, whereas in the Old Testament they were not circumcised, with circumcision being the older equivalent of baptism (Col. 2:11-13).

The New Testament initiatory sacrament is not less catholic regarding the seed of believers than Old Testament circumcision. The children of at least one godly parent are recipients of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 59:20-21) and holy (I Cor. 7:14), for they are included in Christ’s church (Eph. 1:1-2; 6:1-4), embraced in God’s covenant promise (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39) and enrolled in the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:13-16), though there are reprobate Esaus among our offspring, as well as elect Jacobs (Rom. 9:13).

Those promised spiritual baptism and salvation as members of Christ’s catholic church ought to receive its physical sign (Acts 10:47). “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many” (I Cor. 12:12-14).

The element of the sacrament of baptism also reflects the church’s catholicity. Water is relatively accessible all around the globe, even in a wilderness (Acts 8:26, 36), and not much is needed for sprinkling or pouring.

The Lord’s Supper also reflects the greater catholicity of the New Testament church. As with baptism, the second Christian sacrament is administered to females. From this perspective too, it is greater than the Passover, its Old Testament equivalent (I Cor. 5:7), for women were not required to go up to the temple for the pilgrimage feasts.

The Passover involved the sacrificing of lambs by Levitical priests upon the altar in Jerusalem. In comparison, the two elements of the Lord’s Supper, bread and wine, are much easier to administer in local churches around the world.

The Passover and the Lord’s Supper are alike in that neither is to be administered to children, for I Corinthians 11 requires that those who partake of the sacrament are able to examine themselves and discern how the Lord’s body is (spiritually) present (27-32).

The church’s catholicity also provides us with a useful perspective from which to critique and reject the alleged five additional sacraments of Rome (confirmation, penance, matrimony, holy orders and extreme unction). Fatally, Scripture does not teach that these things are sacraments. Moreover, they are not even historically catholic since it took many centuries of apostasy for Rome to declare some of these rites sacraments.

Let us now turn to four errors or perversions involving the doctrine of catholicity. First, regarding soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, many teach a universal love and desire of God to save absolutely everybody, including the Antichrist and all his predecessors (I John 2:18), rather than the truth of God’s effectual love and desire for the salvation of His elect and catholic church alone. Others go further by teaching a universal atonement, claiming that Jesus shed His blood for everyone head for head, the goats as well as the “sheep” (John 10:15, 26), and the reprobate “world” for whom He did not pray as well as those His Father gave Him (17:9). Some argue from a universal divine love and a universal atonement to sheer universalism: every man, woman and child will finally be saved as members of the triumphant catholic church (contra Matt. 25:31-46)!

The second error concerns eschatology, the doctrine of the last things. Postmillennialism foolishly dreams of a future golden age with almost everyone on earth being a true Christian prior to the Lord’s bodily return. Here catholicity is twisted to further the notion that the church is to become the vast numerical majority toward the end of this age (contra Matt. 7:13-14; II Thess. 2; II Tim. 3; Rev. 13:6-8).

Third, we come to ecclesiology. Catholicity in the hands of modernist Protestants and Roman Catholics becomes sheer inclusivism. False ecumenism accepts all or almost all churches and even the cults as if they were truly Christian, irrespective of the heterodoxy of their creeds, theology, preaching, office-bearers and membership.

This wicked disregard for God’s truth leads to syncretism. Those who belong to the so-called “Abrahamic religions” (Judaism and Islam) are also the people of God, as are those who belong to the other pagan religions (Hinduism, Shintoism, etc.). In fact, the ancient philosophers (like Socrates and Plato), atheists, evolutionists, humanists and agnostics are all God’s children in His image, as if Jesus Christ were not the only “name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)!

Fourth, this perversion of catholicity is even used to promote the idea that there are contradictory and competing theologies in the Bible. Many claim that the Old Testament teaches a different religion from the New Testament (contra John 5:39), that Peter disagrees with Paul (contra II Pet. 3:16), that Paul deviates from Christ (contra Gal. 1:11-12) and that Paul even contradicts himself (contra II Tim. 4:7)!

Thus catholicity is abused so as to create disagreements and conflicts within Scripture, and to cover up massive and irreconcilable contradictions in doctrine, and between churches and religions. This is a false catholicity with no true unity for the many has eaten up the one! Rev. Angus Stewart

 

 

God's Restraint of Sin

The lengthy question for this issue of the News arises from a number of passages that speak of God’s restraining sin. “(1) In Exodus 34:23, God commanded the men of Israel to leave their plot of land to go and appear before Him three times a year. To ensure the protection of God’s people from invasion during these times, even though the pagan nations surrounding them desired their land year-round, He promised that ‘neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year’ (24). How is God’s protection of the land of Israel from being invaded by the pagan nations on their border by His restraining their wicked hearts explained apart from a gracious influence of the Spirit upon them?

(2) God restrained David from taking revenge on Nabal for scorning the messengers that David sent to greet Nabal (I Sam. 25:14). Abigail, Nabal’s wife, recognized God’s grace when she pleaded with David not to seek vengeance against her husband, ‘seeing the Lord hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand’ (26). David acknowledged this truth: ‘as the Lord God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee …’ (34).

(3) In Genesis 20, God restrained Abimelech from touching Sarah, Abraham’s wife: ‘I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her’ (6).

(4) In God’s punishment of Israel for its rebellion, we read that He ‘gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust’ with the effect that ‘they walked in their own counsels’ (Ps. 81:12). (5) Similarly, in Romans 1, where Paul describes those who suppress the truth by their wickedness, God ‘gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient’ (28). Does not this ‘giving someone over’ imply that there was previously a gracious restraint or influence of the Spirit upon them that was removed?”

(2) David and (3) Abimelech were both godly men, and there can be no question that God’s restraint of sin in both cases was gracious. He kept David from vengeful murder and Abimelech, King of Gerar, from unwitting adultery. That Abimelech was a godly man is clear from his knowledge of God, his confession that he and his nation were righteous, his understanding that adultery was sin and God’s Word concerning him: “Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her” (Gen. 20:6), David was, as we know, a man after God’s own heart and a picture of Christ. That God restrains His people from sin is one of the great blessings of grace, for we are so foolish that we would go headlong into sin, were it not for His restraining hand and Spirit.

The other examples have to do with God’s restraint of sin in those who are unsaved. (1) He restrained the wickedness of the nations that surrounded Israel in order to protect His people and the promise of Christ. Our Belgic Confession says, “He so restrains the devil and all our enemies, that without his will and permission, they cannot hurt us” (13). (4) In giving up the men of Israel to their own hearts’ lust and (5) in giving up the ungodly to a reprobate mind, He most certainly did remove a previous restraint. We see such things happening in our societies. God, in His just judgment, removes the restraints that once kept homosexuality, murder of infants and other gross sins in check, as Romans 1 teaches. He does it because they hold the truth of God under in unrighteousness and do not like to retain God in their knowledge. So He takes even the knowledge that they are destroying themselves away from them. He does so that they may reach a certain measure of wickedness and become ready for judgment (cf. Gen. 15:16).

God does this by His Holy Spirit, just as He does all things by the Spirit, first restraining their sin and then removing His restraints through the sovereign operations of the Spirit. He does this for the sake of His beloved church and to bring to pass all that He has decreed, but this restraint is not grace to the reprobate. Its purpose in the salvation of His redeemed people is gracious but there is no grace of God in the restraint itself, no grace shown to those whose wickedness He restrains. His restraint is like putting a muzzle on a rabid dog. The dog is restrained from biting and others are protected from it, but its nature is not changed nor its disease cured. God even restrains Satan (Job 1:12; 2:6; Rev. 20:1-3) and that most certainly is not a gracious restraint. Indeed, it is proof that God is able to restrain wickedness by His almighty power without showing grace to those whose sin is restrained.

God uses many different means to restrain man’s wickedness: the fear of punishment; the desire for the praise of others; the social shame and disgrace that wickedness brings at times, even among the ungodly; the fear of revenge; the evil consequences of sin to one’s health, family or career. Even then, these restraints only just keep sin in check. When they are removed, it becomes evident that man’s heart was not changed by these restraints, for he is still just as depraved and prone to all evil as before.

God, in His justice, uses these wicked men themselves to remove those restraints. He uses their courts to legalize homosexuality, abortion and drug abuse. He puts the medical, financial and legal means in their hands to descend into lawlessness and gross wickedness. He gives them the knowledge to invent and create, and then turn it all to the service of sin and Satan. What a testimony to His justice and righteousness that is!

Our denial of common grace, therefore, is not a denial of God’s restraint of sin, nor of the fact that this restraint is the work of His Spirit, nor of His gracious purpose in restraining sin. It is simply that there is no grace except in the cross and shed blood of our Saviour, and no grace for those who are without Christ. Proverbs 3:33 reminds us that “the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked,” not His grace. It would be strange grace, anyway, that first restrained their wickedness and then withdrew.

To return to God’s gracious restraint of sin in His people, as in the case of David and Abimelech, we should remember that He also, in His justice, sometimes removes those restraints so that we fall into sin. This happens when we are hard-hearted and stubborn, and when we neglect prayer and watching. We must, therefore, be warned and be constant, lest we fall into temptation and into the snares of Satan. This matter of the restraint of sin should teach us, therefore, to look to Him always in the great battle we fight against Satan’s wiles and our own sinfulness. Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.www.youtube.com/cprcniwww.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Covenant Reformed News - July 2021

Covenant Reformed News


July 2021 • Volume XVIII, Issue 15



The Basis and Unity of Christ’s Catholic Church

What is the deepest theological basis for the catholicity of the church? God in the plurality of His Persons and the riches of His attributes! Thus the revelation of the mystery of the full equality of Jews and Gentiles in the catholic church to both angels (Eph. 3:10) and men (9) speaks frequently of God (2, 7, 9, 10, 19), the Father (14), Christ (1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 14, 17, 19, 21) and the Spirit (5, 16), as well as His “manifold wisdom” (10), grace (2, 7, 8), love (19) and power (7, 20), yea, “all the fulness of God” (19).

In His eternal counsel, the infinitely perfect Triune God decreed the diversity of creation and the multifariousness of providence. Is the church’s geographical, anthropological and historical catholicity not what rich Trinitarian decretal theology would lead us to expect?

The Jews or any other nation could never be the number one idea or dominant party in God’s eternal plan and historic work of saving His people. He is the God of three Persons and unsearchable virtues! Could one nation (out of hundreds) really be His special goal? How could he display His manifold riches in them alone or chiefly?

Jehovah is the Lord of all creation and providence, of time and space! How could one earthly land or country be uppermost in the mind of the Creator? How could one earthly people be central in the purposes of the Governor of all the nations? Dispensationalism and Jewish premillennialism do not fit with the three Persons, infinite perfections and eternal purpose of God with His one catholic church in Jesus Christ.

Creedal Trinitarian Christianity places great emphasis upon, and is the only solid basis for, catholicity. This stands over against all unitarian religions, such as Judaism, Islam (with its ummah) and Sikhism (about 90% of all Sikhs live in India and some 76% of all Sikhs live in the one north Indian state of Punjab).

Now let us consider two of the church’s attributes together: unity and catholicity, the one and the many. The God who is one in nature and three in Persons saves a church that is one and catholic. The Bible, which is one book consisting of 66 books, teaches one truth richly presented, including the unity and catholicity of the church. Protology (first things) and eschatology (last things) proclaim that both this creation and the new creation include the one and the many, with both creations as the realms of God’s one catholic church, one for the church now and the other for the church in the future.

Jesus Christ is one Person (the Son of God). He possesses two natures as God and man, uniting eternity and time (as the pre-existent and incarnate One), and heaven and earth (cf. Eph. 1:10). The inscription on His cross “was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin” (John 19:20). Thus in God’s one catholic church, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11).

There is one Holy Spirit who is presented as the seven spirits of God (Rev. 1:4; 4:5) to indicate the many covenant graces, blessings and gifts that He communicates to the one catholic church saved by the Lord Jesus (Acts 2; I Cor. 12-14).

Scripture uses many images of the church to bring out the fact that it is both one and many (in different senses): one flock consisting of many sheep (John 10:16), one temple made of many living stones (I Pet. 2:5), one (spiritual) kingdom or nation or city with many citizens, one army of many soldiers (Num. 1:3), etc. There is one image and one chapter that especially speak of its unity and multiplicity: the church is one body consisting of many members in I Corinthians 12 (cf. Rom. 12:4-5).

By way of comparison, in the Old Testament the unity of God’s Being and the unity of His church have a greater prominence, whereas the New Testament places more emphasis on the threeness of God’s Persons and the catholicity of His church.

Yet, even in Old Testament days, the church included believers of different nations and peoples (geographical and ethnic catholicity). Rahab was from the Canaanite city of Jericho (Josh. 2), the widow of Zarephath from the territory of Tyre and Sidon (I Kings 17), Naaman from Syria (II Kings 5), and Moses’ wife and Ebedmelech from Ethiopia (Num. 12:1; Jer. 38-39). Ruth was a Moabitess, Uriah was a Hittite, Ittai the Gittite was a Philistine and Ornan was a Jebusite. Space forbids listing the many Psalms and Old Testament prophecies that predict the catholicity of the church in the last times.

The Second Helvetic Confession (1566) states it well, “These all are citizens of one and the same city, living under one Lord, under the same laws, and in the same fellowship of all good things; for the apostle calls them ‘fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God’ (Eph. 2:19); terming the faithful upon the earth saints, who are sanctified by the blood of the Son of God. Of these is that article of our Creed wholly to be understood, ‘I believe in the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints.’ And, seeing that there is always but ‘one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ’ (I Tim. 2:5); also, one Shepherd of the whole flock, one Head of this body, and, to conclude, one Spirit, one salvation, one faith, one Testament, or Covenant—it follows necessarily that there is but one Church, which we therefore call Catholic because it is universal, spread abroad through all the parts and quarters of the world, and reaches unto all times, and is not limited within the compass either of time or place. Here, therefore, we must condemn the Donatists, who pinned up the Church within the corners of Africa; neither do we assent to the Roman clergy, who vaunt that the Church of Rome alone is in a manner Catholic” (17). Rev. Angus Stewart

 

 

Is Hell Fire Literal?

This article is a follow-up of a previous article. One of our readers has disagreed with what I wrote about hell. He says, “I refer to the CR News of March 2021 in which Ron Hanko does not believe in hell fire. To my understanding of Scripture, this is a reality. Jesus quotes this as a fact in Mark 9:43-48, as well as Revelation 19:20 and other references. I feel Ron is using human logic to explain divine truth by not accepting the ungodly being in the fire without being consumed. I have no difficulty in accepting this, believing that with God it is possible. It is what the rich man in Luke 16:24 experienced, the flame of fire. I would rather believe Jesus than Ron Hanko. Is it just his opinion or the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRC)? If God can cause a bush to remain unconsumed as in Exodus 3:2, He can also enable the wicked to experience eternal fire in hell without being consumed. Ron needs to reflect on this.”

It is really not correct to say that I do “not believe in hell fire.” It would be more correct to say that I do not believe in literal hell fire. God’s wrath is often described as fire in Scripture (e.g., Ps. 11:6; 18:8, 12-13; 21:9; 78:21; 89:46; Isa. 5:24-25; 10:16-18; 30:33; 66:16, 24). Sometimes His wrath is revealed in literal fire as in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and in the destruction of the universe at the end of time, but not always.

God’s wrath was kindled again Job’s three friends, but that does not mean that they were actually and literally burned with fire (Job 42:7). The kindling of God’s wrath against Israel in Deuteronomy 31:17 was not in fire, but in other troubles and judgments. Wrath, especially God’s wrath, is like fire in its consuming power and destructiveness. It is even worse than fire! God Himself, as a God of wrath and judgment, is described as a “consuming fire” in Deuteronomy 4:24 and Hebrews 12:29, but that cannot be literally true. He is not something but someone, three Persons in one God, yet the descriptions of His wrath and even of His nature as fire ought to cause us to tremble.

The other argument for a metaphorical or non-literal understanding is that Scripture uses many different descriptions of hell and its suffering, and it is difficult to see how they can all be taken literally. Is hell literally being consumed by worms (Mark 9:44, 46, 48) or a moth (Isa. 51:8)? Is it also literally darkness (Jude 13)? Do those in hell physically drink the cup of the wine of God’s wrath (Rev. 14:10)? Is the punishment of hell literally all these things at the same time?

What needs to be emphasized is that coming under the judgment and wrath of God in time or for eternity is the worst thing that can happen to anyone. I have no doubt that God is able to burn the wicked with literal fire for all eternity without them being consumed, but the point is, even then, that the horror of hell is eternal suffering under the terrible wrath and hot displeasure of God.

In any case, it is not something I would argue long about or insist that my interpretation is correct. Much more important than believing or not believing in literal fire is believing that hell is a real place of eternal punishment where the ungodly and unbelieving suffer forever. That is a doctrine under attack. The doctrine of hell and of eternal punishment is denied by many leading evangelicals, such as John Stott, and some of the modern versions like the NIV have all but eliminated hell from the Bible. That important doctrine is also denied by many cults.

As to the members or leaders of the PRC, I do not know what they believe, nor is it a matter of debate in those churches. There are and have been different views among respected leaders and theologians. John Calvin indicates that he believed that the references to hell fire were metaphorical in his commentary on Matthew 3:12. Martin Luther did not think it necessary to believe in literal fire. Charles Hodge said, “There seems to be no more reason for supposing that the fire spoken of in Scripture is to be literal fire, than that the worm that never dies is literally a worm” (Systematic Theology, 3:868).

On the other hand, Louis Berkhof leaned to the view that the fire is literal: “Some deny that there will be a literal fire, because this could not affect spirits like Satan and his demons. But how do we know this? Our body certainly works on our soul in some mysterious way. There will be some positive punishment corresponding to our bodies.” Yet he then adds, “It is undoubtedly true, however, that a great deal of the language concerning heaven and hell must be understood figuratively” (Systematic Theology, p. 736).

There are, however, several important points here about interpreting Scripture. First, not everything in Scripture can be or must be taken literally. In Revelation 20:1-3, it is impossible to take everything, including key, chain, bottomless pit and dragon, literally. Nor is it necessary to take everything literally in order to maintain the truth that Scripture is the inspired and infallible Word of God. That must be taken into account when dealing with the Bible’s descriptions of hell. It is not necessary to believe that hell is literally darkness, a moth, a worm, a cup, and fire to maintain what the Bible does teach about eternal punishment.

Second, the principle for interpreting any passage of Scripture is that Scripture interprets itself. That is true of the references to hell. If the brother who has submitted the disagreement above is convinced on the basis of Scripture itself that the fire of hell is literal, then I am satisfied and ask him to make the same charitable judgment. It is not what he thinks or what I think that matters but what Scripture itself says, and I am convinced, as John Calvin was, that a study of Scripture shows that the references to fire are metaphorical. I am also convinced, however, that the punishment of the ungodly and unbelieving is terrible and forever.

One other thing we should remember is that the biblical doctrine of hell is not just a matter of theology and of theological debate, but a testimony to the righteousness and justice of God, the necessity of believing in Jesus Christ, and the evil of rejecting and despising Him. The sad thing is, however, that no one will ever be scared into heaven by the Bible’s teaching on hell and hell fire. The only way anyone sees his great peril and turns to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith is by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, implanting and giving the gift of faith, and opening one’s ears and heart to the sweet call and good news of the gospel of God’s free grace. Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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Covenant Reformed News - June 2021

Covenant Reformed News


June 2021 • Volume XVIII, Issue 14



The Church’s Catholicity: Perspectives and Scripture

Last time, we spoke of Christ’s church in terms of its geographical, anthropological and historical catholicity. This fits with the beautiful idea of the word “catholicity”: Christ’s church is “according to the whole.” God saves the elect world in our Lord Jesus and not merely people from special nations or particular races or some languages or certain centuries or specific economic classes. The Triune God redeems and gathers as living members of His church all kinds of people (anthropological catholicity) in space (geographical catholicity) and time (historical catholicity).

To these three aspects or perspectives of the church’s catholicity, Roman Catholicism would (erroneously) add another: the catholicity of numbers (one could refer to this as mathematical catholicity!). This especially arose as part of Rome’s polemics against the Reformation. The Roman church argued that it was the true catholic church of Christ because its membership was larger than that of the Protestant churches. It is worth pointing out that, since the sixteenth century, the numerical gap between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism has narrowed.

More significantly, greater numbers are no guarantee of truth. Just ask Noah and the other seven people in the ark! Even if an error is very popular, the Word of God forbids our compliance: “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” (Ex. 23:2). The Northern Kingdom consisted of 10 of the 12 tribes, yet it was a false church. Belgic Confession 27 on “The Catholic Christian Church” observes that, out of the many hundreds of thousands in Israel, there were only 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal (I Kings 19:18; Rom. 11:4). The true church is always a remnant (e.g., Rom. 9:27; 11:5). The way to heaven is through a narrow gate and along a narrow way, with few ever finding it; whereas the gate and way to hell is wide, and many are headed there (Matt. 7:13-14).

In their polemics against Rome, some Protestants have included the catholicity of the faith under the catholicity of the church (one could call this theological catholicity!). The Athanasian Creed speaks repeatedly of the “catholic faith” (1, 3, 44) and the “catholic religion” (20). In answer to the question, “What is then necessary for a Christian to believe?” the Heidelberg Catechism answers, “All things promised us in the gospel, which the articles of our catholic undoubted Christian faith briefly teach us” (Q. & A. 22), before going on to quote (A. 23) and expound the truth of the Apostles’ Creed (Lord’s Days 8-24).

It is, indeed, true that people and churches must embrace the biblical and catholic faith to be part of the catholic church. However, belief of the catholic faith is not part of the definition of the catholicity of the church, for the catholicity of the church expresses the fact that the elect, ransomed and regenerated church is “according to the whole” of mankind in space and time. It is more accurate and helpful to refer believing the true faith to the church’s attribute of apostolicity rather than catholicity.

It is beneficial here to present some evidence for the powerful witness in God’s Word to the catholicity of the church. There are two whole Old Testament narrative books which treat catholicity as a theme from beginning to end. One is named after a woman, Ruth (from the land of Moab); the other is named after a man, Jonah (whose preaching God used to convert many in pagan Nineveh). The Old Testament poetic or wisdom book with most to say regarding catholicity is the Psalms. Among the four Major Prophets, Isaiah especially comes to mind. He wrote so much about Christ and His work that he necessarily spoke often of God’s church being gathered out of the nations through His sacrifice and power. Among the Minor Prophets, it is Zechariah that contains most predictions of the calling of the Gentiles.

Of the five historical books at the beginning of the New Testament Scriptures, it is Acts that speaks most of the church’s catholicity. The resurrected Christ’s statement to His apostles in Acts 1:8 is programmatic: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). Acts 2:9-11 lists people from many countries and cities who heard the apostles preach the gospel in their own languages. Some 3,000 of them were converted and baptized on the day of Pentecost (41). In Acts 10-11, we read of the conversion of Gentile Cornelius to the faith of Jesus Christ, without his having to be circumcised or become a Jew or keep the law of Moses. These crucial issues pertaining to the catholicity of the church were treated decisively by the Jerusalem council (Acts 15).

Paul’s missionary journeys illustrate the church’s geographical catholicity. In his first missionary journey, the apostle and Barnabas are sent by the Holy Spirit and the church of Antioch in Syria (Acts 13:1-4) to Cyprus and southern parts of (what is now) Turkey, where they preach the gospel and labour to establish congregations (Acts 13-14). Paul’s second and third missionary journeys include Greece, and so see him travel from the continent of Asia to Europe in the service of the Word of Christ. After his arrest in Jerusalem and over two-year imprisonment in Caesarea (cf. Acts 24:27), the apostle is conveyed by ship across the eastern Mediterranean to Rome, the capital of the Empire.

Thus, amongst the penmen of the inspired New Testament epistles, it is Paul (rather than Peter, James, Jude or John) who writes most about the church’s catholicity, particularly in connection with the inclusion of the Gentiles. In this regard, we would point especially to his letters to the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians. Rev. A. Stewart

 

The Differences Between the Two Versions of the Decalogue

This month’s question is: “How do you explain the differences between the two versions of the Ten Commandments recorded in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21?”

The main differences are five, here presented in order:

(1) The Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5 do not begin with the words, “And God spake all these words saying ...”

(2) The fourth commandment in Exodus starts with the words, “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy,” but in Deuteronomy it begins, “Keep the sabbath day, to sanctify it”—not a major difference of wording.

(3) In Deuteronomy 5, there is a long addition to the fourth commandment: “And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.”

(4) In Deuteronomy, the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth commandments begin with the words “Neither shalt thou ...” instead of “Thou shalt not ...” as in Exodus.

(5) In the version of the Ten Commandments recorded in Deuteronomy, the words, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife ...” are switched around, so that the neighbour’s wife is mentioned first and his house second.

Besides these, there are only some very minor variations in wording. Difference (4), regarding the opening words of commandments 6-10, is relatively insignificant.

Difference (5) is of some importance in our polemic against Roman Catholicism. In defence of its practice of image worship, Rome combines the first two commandments (it sees no difference between idolatry and image worship). In order still to have ten commandments it takes “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house” as the ninth commandment and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife” as the beginning of the tenth commandment. The fact that these phrases are switched around in Deuteronomy shows that they belong to the same commandment and are not two separate commandments as Rome teaches. Nor are idolatry and image worship the same thing. In spite of what Rome says and does, image worship is wicked and forbidden by God.

Difference (1) is the result of the fact that in Exodus God Himself is reciting the Ten Commandments from the top of Sinai out of the smoke and fire upon the mount, one of the very few times that Jehovah spoke directly to His people. In Deuteronomy, God is not speaking directly but Moses is retelling the story of the giving of the law. The emphasis in Exodus is significant, though. That God spoke the words of the Ten Commandments and spoke them in the hearing of the people underlines their importance, and the fact that they are the unchangeable Word of God. Usually God spoke to Israel through Moses or others but in this case He Himself spoke. No wonder, then, that Jesus said of the law, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:18).

Differences (2) and (3) concern the fourth commandment regarding the sabbath. They are the most important of all. The additions and changes in Deuteronomy’s version of the Ten Commandments reflect the fact that the nation of Israel was then at the borders of the land of Canaan and ready to enter the land in fulfilment of God’s promise. That land was for them the sabbath land, the land of rest (sabbath means “rest”), a picture of the rest which still remains for the people of God (Heb. 4:9), a land in which their whole life would be controlled and ordered by the weekly and yearly sabbaths.

In preparation for their entry into that land, God speaks through Moses more fully of the sabbath in Deuteronomy than He does in Exodus, a reminder to them of the important place that the sabbath would have in Israel’s life and, therefore, of the important place that He would have in their lives. It is no different for us. The sabbath, now celebrated on the “Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10), reminds us both of the rest that still remains for us in heaven and of the place that God has in our lives as the One in whom we find rest for our souls. Israel heard the fourth commandment repeated by Moses, and we too are on the borders of the land that God has promised us and will soon be entering it.

The difference in the opening words of the fourth commandment is not especially important. Sanctifying the sabbath and keeping it holy are the same thing, and we remember the sabbath by keeping it holy. If anything at all stands out in the different versions of this commandment, it is the word “keep” in Deuteronomy. That word means both that the Sabbath must be guarded and that it must be observed. Few, then or now, are interested in keeping the day as a special day or in behaving differently on the day. Of all the commandments, it is the least valued and many, sadly, do not even believe it is in force for New Testament Christians.

The addition to the fourth commandment in Deuteronomy is important. One might think that the words, “And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day,” consign the commandment and its observance to the Old Testament, but the opposite is true.

The deliverance of Israel from Egypt was a foreshadowing of our deliverance from the bondage of sin and Satan, and God is speaking to us as well as to them when He says, “therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.” This is taught in Belgic Confession 34, which speaks of the saving power of baptism (not the sign but the reality): “Not that this is effected by the external water, but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God, who is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, that is, the devil, and to enter into the spiritual land of Canaan.”

In Jesus Christ and by His atoning sacrifice, God has brought us out of the bondage of sin and we are on our way to the heavenly Sabbath land, the rest that still remains for the people of God. Both in thankfulness for what God has done in delivering us and in hope of that better rest, we keep the New Testament sabbath, the sabbath of the first day of the week on which our Saviour rose from the dead. Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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